This week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. we learn what's up with S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0, General Talbot's played for laughs and we finally catch up with Evil Ward and Agent 33, who I was suspecting the writers forgot about.
When Dr. Garner recommends Skye be relieved of duty until she can handle her quake powers, Coulson and May agree. Coulson flies Skye to a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house, where she can practice her powers without shaking their headquarters apart.
Meanwhile, Mockingbird and Mack introduce Hunter to the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D., headed by Agent Robert Gonzales (played by Edward James Olmos). Gonzales says S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 is founded on the ideal of transparency, and intends to avoid Nick Fury's cloak and dagger approach. Gonzales is worried about Coulson's stability, especially in light of his recent alien-related breakdown, and intends to replace him and his agents, no doubt setting up a S.H.I.E.L.D. Civil War as the season finale.
Hunter escapes the S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 conference room and discovers he's on what looks like a Helicarrier in the ocean. He steals a sub and heads for the mainland in order to warn Coulson. Mockingbird follows, intending to stop him.
Lastly, Evil Ward and Agent 33 are setting up house in a hotel room. Agent 33's face-swapping nano-mask is still fused to her face, giving her the appearance of May. After getting it repaired, she adopts Skye's face and attempts to seduce Evil Ward. He tells her that's not what he's looking for, and encourages her to display her own face. When she says she doesn't know who she is, he suggests they find HYDRA agent Bakshi, as he's the one who brainwashed 33 in the first place.
Bakshi's being held by General Talbot, so Evil Ward and Agent 33 infiltrate his headquarters and abduct him. Bakshi tells 33 her name is really Kara, which jogs her memory enough that she's able to assume her true face. Evil Ward and Kara then begin brainwashing Bakshi for their own nefarious purposes.
• I'm betting the opening scene with Evil Ward and Agent 33 in the diner was supposed to be an homage to the beginning of Pulp Fiction. You know, the scene with Pumpkin and Honey Bunny having breakfast and discussing the fact that they're criminals? That one. In this episode Evil Ward even kept going on about "pumpkin pancakes!"
If that wasn't an homage, then it was a hell of a big coincidence!
• Evil Ward and Agent 33 track down the scientist who invented the nano-mask to the diner and abduct him. After they force him to fix the mask, Evil Ward kills him! Well that's that, I guess! Let's hope the mask never needs fixing again.
By the way, the tech tells 33 that her mask can store up to three faces at a time. I guess Agent May's is one of those? She's able to recall it at will.
• Kudos to Ming-Na Wen for her portrayal of the confused and abused Agent 33. She did an incredible job of selling the fact that she was a different person.
• Creepy scene of the episode (and possibly of the season!): When Agent 33 was wearing Skye's face, but May's voice was coming out of her mouth. And all while she was trying to seduce Evil Ward. Yikes!
• So is Agent 33 the Marvel Cinematic Universe's version of Madame Masque? Probably not, since we find out 33's name is Kara, and Masque's real name is Whitney, but it would be cool if she was.
• When Hunter meets Agent Gonzales, he infodumps the reasons behind the existence of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0. Basically he believes that Fury's "secret spy organization" approach was wrong, so the new S.H.I.E.L.D. is founded on the principle of complete transparency (!).
Now there's a novel idea! A transparent spy agency! Kind of defeats the whole purpose, doesn't it? I have to say I thought this was a pretty lame attempt at an explanation. Besides, if they're so transparent, how come no one knows about them? Why are they sneaking around? Isn't that what they accused the orignal S.H.I.E.L.D. of doing? None of this makes any sense.
• Gonzales says the other reason for founding S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 is because they believe Coulson's been acting erratically, especially after the whole "alien blood transfusion" thing. OK, I'll give them that one.
• I kept expecting Gonzales to end every sentence with "So say we all!"
• I didn't think much of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0's security. Hunter was able to escape the conference room ridiculously easily, as only a couple of guards put up even a token resistance. He even stole a sub and headed for the mainland with little or no trouble. Maybe they're letting him escape for some reason?
• So S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 is plotting a takeover of Original S.H.I.E.L.D., and Mockingbird and Mack are with them. Darn. I really liked these two characters. I hope there's some way they can remain on the show after all this plays out. Maybe they're triple agents?
• Agent 33 sneaks into General Talbot's headquarters disguised as his wife, and abducts Bakshi. While I did appreciate the much-needed bit of comic relief by Talbot here, I think it's a mistake to play him for laughs. He should be a formidable enemy, not a laughingstock.
• At the safe house, Coulson gives Skye a new set of gloves whipped up by Simmons. He says they'll help her control her powers, with "minimal" side effects. Skye must be really preoccupied, because she doesn't even ask what those side effects might be. In the Marvel Universe, you never know. Growing wings, perhaps? A tail?
• Favorite line of the episode: When Hunter meets the heads of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0, he says to Mockingbird, “Perhaps we could have discussed this alone, without Hufflepuff looking on?”